BIOWATCH: Food aid- a new dumping ground
By Declan Walsh, 30 March 2000
Embattled American farmers facing rejection of their genetically modified crops still have one unquestioning market - emergency aid for the world's starving and displaced.
The US Department of Agriculture is exporting hundreds of thousands of tons of GM maize to the Third World through the United Nations and American aid agencies. Aid is the last unregulated export market open to US farmers as worried European and Asian consumers shun GM grain and introduce strict import and labelling rules.
Last year the US donated 500,000 tons of maize and maize products worth $111m (£70m) to international relief programmes. It is "safe to assume" that 30 per cent of this aid was genetically modified, according to Usaid, the US government's aid wing.
Lucrative maize contracts were awarded to giant GM grain merchants such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill, which won one-third of all contracts by volume last year. When other sales are included, Cargill and ADM won aid contracts worth at least $140m last year.
The UN's World Food Programmes (WFP) received just under half of the US maize donations. But the UN does not know how much of the aid it receives is genetically modified; nor does it have a policy on the issue. "We have many issues to face and GM is way down the list," said a WFP spokeswoman in Nairobi. WFP accepted only those food donations that fully met the safety standards in the donor countries, she added.
The safety standards are hotly contested by others, such as Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss of the South African organisation Biowatch. "Africa is treated as the dustbin of the world. The US does not need to grow nor donate GM crops.
To donate untested food and seed to Africa is not an act of kindness but an attempt to lure Africa into further dependence on foreign aid," she said. The export of GM crops as food is something WFP should be "very concerned with", according to Li Lin Lim of the Malaysia-based Third World Network.
She said it was "very likely" that UN policy was influenced by its dependence on the US. Last year the US contributed $711m to WFP, almost half its global budget. WFP's executive director is Catherine Bertini, a former Department of Agriculture official who hails from the Illinois cornbelt region.
The massive backlash against the use of GM crops in Western food products started last year in Europe and spread to Japan and the US. Multinationals as diverse as McDonald's and Heinz banned GM ingredients from their products and the EU introduced a two-year moratorium on GM imports. Strict restrictions on the labelling and export of GM crops were agreed in Canada earlier this year. Dr Tewolde Gebre Egziabher of Ethiopia led the group of Third World countries fighting for stricter regulation. "Countries in the grip of a crisis are unlikely to have the leverage to say, 'This crop is contaminated, we're not taking it'," he said. "They should not be faced with a dilemma between allowing a million people to starve to death and allowing their genetic pool to be polluted."
But esoteric arguments about the genetic make-up of a bag of grain mean little to those for whom food aid is a matter of life and death. Some 4,000 people have arrived in Kafurumaye, a village on the edge of the vast forests of eastern Congo. They are part of an estimated 130,000 people that have fled the militia attacks that fuel the Congo war.
No aid agency has yet visited. The GM debate doesn't feature as even a blip on their consciousness. "We haven't enough food or even pots too cook with," said the village chief.
Congo is just one of many famine hot spots competing for the attention of Western aid agencies: there are crises in such places as Burundi, Angola, Mozambique and Sudan.
A WFP information officer, Brenda Barton, was so moved by the 1998 famine in southern Sudan she fed starving twins with her breast milk. "It would be pretentious to say that GM foods matters to these people," she said. "When people are dying they don't question where the food is coming from."
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent, Independent, April 23, 2000
"Miracle" crops, hailed as the answer to global famine, are contributing to widespread brain impairment in the developing world, a new report concludes. It says that the high-yielding rice and wheat varieties that brought about the much-heralded "Green Revolution" are among a range of environmental factors undermining human intelligence.
The study, which looks at environmental threats to human intelligence, is part of the £15m Global Environmental Change Programme, financed by Britain's Economic and Social Research Council. It is published tomorrow. It concludes that a deadly combination of soil erosion, pollution and inadequate diet is affecting the intelligence of millions of people, with effects ranging from severe intellectual disabilities to "sub-clinical decline" in whole populations.
The Green Revolution crops, introduced in the late 1960s and early 1970s, produce several times as much grain as the traditional varieties they replaced, and they spread rapidly. They enabled India to double its wheat crop in seven years, dramatically increasing food supplies and averting widely predicted famine.
But the report says that the new crops, unlike their predecessors, fail to take up minerals such as iron and zinc from the soil. So even as people consumed more calories, their intake of these key "micronutrients" fell. "High-yielding Green Revolution crops were introduced in poorer countries to overcome famine," the report says. "But these are now blamed for causing intellectual deficits, because they do not take up essential micronutrients."
The report is written by Dr Christopher Williams, a research fellow with the Global Environmental Change Programme. Using already published UN data he has calculated that 1.5 billion people one quarter of the earth's population are affected by "Green Revolution iron deficiency". He claims the condition impairs the learning ability of more than half of India's schoolchildren. He concludes that, eventually, the evolution of the brain could go into reverse as humans develop more extensive digestive systems to cope with the lack of nutrients sacrificing intelligence in the process.
The professor's sources include the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations which has compiled evidence that the amount of the metal in people's diets fell throughout most of the Third World in the 1970s and 1980s, making iron deficiency the only form of malnutrition to increase over the two decades. The greatest drops in the intake of iron took place in South and South East Asia, the very areas where the Green Revolution was most successful. Other UN figures show that half the world's pregnant women are anaemic, because they have too little iron, putting both them and their babies at risk. The condition is thought to be responsible for 200,000 deaths a year. And the World Bank reckons that deficiencies of iron, iodine, and vitamin A together wipe out some 5 per cent of the GDP of developing countries, a crippling blow to poor economies.
here are two articles by Boudewijn Wegerif who has spent time in South Africa and now teaches in Sweden. The first takes a minute to read the second a bit longer.
All the best
We work for a god called money, and we have our hopes set on a good called love. We have our living the wrong way round.
In the minute that it may take you to read this page, one hundred new motor cars will have come on to the roads, eighteen million litres of oil equivalent primary energy will have been burnt up, several million dollars equivalent of new credit will have been loaned into the economy at interest by banks and related financial institutions.
That means that in this minute big promises are being made for more money-measured growth to service debt promises that depend on there being still more motor cars on the roads and more non-renewable energy burnt up tomorrow.
The credit market in the U.S. alone grew by four million dollars a minute in 1999.
So don't talk to me about creating a sustainable economy through ethical investments, energy taxes and other piecemeal reforms. Talk rather about removing the debt money base to human cooperation and enterprise, cancelling all debts entered into for profit, and accepting that we have the capacity for mind over matter healing powers such as Jesus displayed.
As enough people turn around to live for love and healing in a way that brings down the big banks, a radiance will permeate the world, to lift it up out of the dead money culture.
Then living will be so organized that all labour is voluntary, all energies used renewable and all movement and management free.
"I believe in a world that does not exist, but by believing it, I create it."
- Greek author Nikos Kazantzaka
The bottom line to the story is The blind will see debt for what it is, the prisoners of debt will be freed, the bankers' debt money scam will be undone, and Bill Gates' Microsoft greed at the apex to the debt pyramid of dollar imperialism will be exposed.
I see that the latest report of the Federal Reserve Board shows that there was a staggering $25.6 trillion of credit market debt outstanding in the U.S. at the end of 1999 the total debt burden of the people of the U.S. having about doubled since 1990, and increased by $2.25 trillion in 1999 alone!
Now $2.25 trillion dollars that is more than the value of all the gold and foreign currency reserves of all the countries in the world in fact, that is more than twice the value of all the gold ever produced in the world. Or to bring it down to more personal terms, $2.25 trillion dollars of increased debt in the U.S. in one year works out at about $375 for every man, woman and child in the world, and nearly $8,500 for every man, woman and child in the United States.
In one year the per capita U.S. debt burden, including all household, enterprise and government debt increased by almost $8,500, to $95,000. One has to ask, of course, where has that $2.25 trillion dollars of new debt in the U.S. credit market come from?
The easiest way to answer the question is to relate it to what happens when you ask your bank manager for a loan of say $100,000 and the bank agrees to that in return for the deeds of your house and, lets say, $100,000 of interest payments for the five year period of the loan.
Having agreed the terms of the loan, there is now some fancy fingerwork on a computer keyboard and that's it! No depositors have been told that their money has been lent to you, because it hasnít.
The $100,000 loan to you, for which you have handed over the title deeds of your home, is new money in the economy and a new asset for the bank part of its riches. Just like that!
And that $100,000 is going to be deposited in either the same bank or other banks in the banking system, to give the banks the right to lend yet again to other borrowers up to near enough the full amount of the new deposits -- and then these new borrowers will deposit their loans in the banking system, giving the banks the right to lend yet again ó and so on and so on and so on.
Just think about it how every mortgage contract supports a pyramid of more and more debt. And extend your thinking to take in the fact that the total debt owed on all owner-occupied housing in the United States is now well over $6 trillion, having grown by over $.6 trillion in 1999.
What that means is that $.6 trillion of 'money' has come into the economy in one year to boost the nation's money supply the nation's means of exchange the life blood of the U.S. economy thanks to a great number of householders surrendering the deeds of at least $.6 trillion worth of housing to the banks and other financial institutions that make up the credit market!
Furthermore, with respect to the total mortgage debt of over $6 trillion, it means that the title deeds to over half the owner-occupied housing in the U.S. is now held by the banks and financial institutions that make up the credit market.
My estimate of a total equity value of under $12 trillion of all owner-occupied housing is based on figures in Housing Statistics of the United States (edited by Patrick Simmons, Bernan Press, 1997). My source is The Grip of Death, by Michael Rowbotham (published by Jon Carpenter, who, incidentally, have just brought out a second book by Michael Rowbotham on our debt enslavement called Goodbye America). READ THIS BOOK!!!!
What we have to think about here is Michael Rowbotham's question in The Grip of Death, "Is it proper to rely upon housing debt to create the nation's medium of exchange?" And the answer is clearly, "Hell no!"
It is really alarming to know that nearly all money in the economy is debt number money, created out of nothing essentially.
Apart from the rank injustice and stupidity of it, just imagine what would happen if all money on loan from the banks and other financial institutions that make up the credit market were to be repaid. Then the banks and so on would be out of business and there would only be the coins and notes issued by the government left in circulation as legal money tender coins and dollar bills with a purchasing value of not much more than $1 trillion for a country needing at least twenty times that amount of money to keep going economically.
Here please note that the money supply of every country in the world today is dependent on banks and financial institutions taking ownership, essentially, of an ever-growing proportion of the housing stock as well as holding I.O.Us in different forms against an ever-increasing proportion of the revenue of industry and commerce and government tax revenues. When Sir Josiah Stamp, a director of the Bank of England in the 1920s, stopped to think about how banks make their money, he was so amazed, he wrote:
"Banking is conceived in iniquity and born in sin. Bankers own the earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create money and with the flick of a pen (nowadays, with speedy fingers over a computer keyboard) they will create enough money to buy it back again. Take this great power away from them and all great fortunes like mine will disappear, and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier world to live in. But if you want to continue (to be) the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create money and to control credit."
And this is what The Nobel laureate scientist Frederick Soddy had to say in the 1920s about how banks were making money then (and please bear in mind that the banking system's control of the world economy is now very much greater):
"The whole profit of the issuance of money has provided the capital of the great banking business as it exists today. Starting with nothing whatever of their own, they have got the whole world into their debt irredeemably, by a trick.
"This money comes into existence every time the banks 'lend' and disappears every time the debt is repaid to them. So that if industry tries to repay, the money of the nation disappears. This is what makes prosperity so 'dangerous' as it destroys money just when it is most needed and precipitates a slump.
"There is nothing left now for us but to get ever deeper and deeper into debt to the banking system in order to provide the increasing amounts of money the nation requires for its expansion and growth.
"An honest money system is the only alternative."
An honest money system? Was Soddy referring perhaps to what Thomas Jefferson had in mind, when he said in 1800 or thereabouts -
"The issueing power of money should be taken from the banks and restored to Congress and the people to whom it belongs. I sincerely believe the banking institutions having the issueing power of money are more dangerous to liberty than standing armies."
Well Abraham Lincoln tried that. He needed money to meet the expenses of the Civil War and the banks wanted over 30 percent interest. So Lincoln by-passed the banks and created 300,000 dollars worth (an enormous sum in those days) of government-issued, debt and interest-free money notes which came to be called 'greenbacks'. This worked so well, Lincoln was inspired to formulate a Monetary Policy in 1865 for more of the same when the Civil War was over. He wrote:
"The privilege of creating and issueing money is not only the supreme prerogative of government, but it is the government's greatest creative opportunity. . .The people will be issued with a currency as safe as there own government. Money will cease to be the master and become the servant of humanity. Democracy will rise superior to money power."
A few weeks later he was assassinated. Is there to be another form of Civil War in the U.S., of the people against the banks, to put Lincoln's monetary policy, with improvements, into effect? This is a serious question.
For just think what it means a credit market with $25.6 trillion, which is $95,000 per head, of debt assets debt assets that have to be serviced. This means that the whole economy is now servant to the money-lenders who are now only interested in lending big to big spenders promising big profits from financial speculation, property deals, star wars, gulf wars, Kosovo incursions, huge construction projects, etc., etc. . .
Anything but what is needed to help us create a sustainable lifestyle and bring the earth back to health. And why? why the bigism? Why the bombings and 'peace keeping operations' to support the bigism?
Because the debt pyramid scam requires it because there is a debt, and you can't service the debt without creating more debt, and the only way you can create more debt is to pretend that you are going to have a really big-time, profitable tomorrow to borrow against today Yes, the only way you can create more debt now, by the principles that rule the privately owned credit market, is to degrade commodities, degrade labour, degrade goods and services and go the limit in creating inflated capital values in over-priced stocks and shares and properties as the collateral for yet more borrowing, more debt.
That is why the stock market value of Microsoft, the most highly capitalized corporation in the world, increased by $120 billion in one week in December 1999, for example $120 billion being about equal to the value put on a whole year of economic activity (GNP)in Finland, or Greece, or South Africa. Microsoft's Christmas time market value was then a staggering $600 billion, 77 times earnings, 28 times revenue. And Suspect Earnings At That.
For according to the investment advisor Bill Parish of Parish & Company, underlying the spectacular 'success' of Microsoft is a big fraud. Microsoft is not a profit-maker but a loser hiding losses.
According to Bill Parish, "The fundamental problem is that Microsoft is incurring massive losses and only by accounting illusions are they able to show a profit. Specifically, Microsoft is granting excessive amounts of stock options that are allowing the company to understate its costs." He goes on: "You might ask yourself, what would happen to Microsoft's stock price if the public suddenly realized that they lost $10 billion in 1999 rather than earning the reported $7.8 billion? If 80 percent of its stock value or roughly $400 billion is the result of a pyramid scheme..."
Does this mean that the U.S. debt pyramid of $25.6 trillion could collapse if Microsoft's little pyramid scheme is brought to an end through exposure? The thought is mind-boggling.
And if the U.S. debt pyramid goes (flickering out into Microsoft cyberspace, as it were), surely the other major debt pyramids of Japan and Europe will go also debt pyramids which I estimate must amount to another 35 trillion in dollar equivalence towards a total world debt burden of not less than $11,000 on every man, woman and child alive. We Are At The Bottom Line Here: Is Microsoft going to be the undoing of Wall Street, and through Wall Street, the global financial 'Tower of Babel' or rather, to untangle the metaphor, is Microsoft going to be the undoing of the U.S.- cum-global debt pyramid scam?
The answer to that is, "Could be", judging from the evidence posted by Bill Parish in a 22 February 2000 update to the original expose at http://www.billparish.com/msftfraudfacts.html
The Microsoft pyramid scheme, writes Parish, "is now accelerating and destabilizing both the stock market and overall economy, corrupting the Federal Reserve's efforts to control the money supply and triggering false inflation. Microsoft, once a great technology company, has indeed become a 'pied piper' of financial fraud."
Perhaps this was also the view of Microsoft's own internal auditor "a respected Deloitte and Touche veteran", writes Parish who settled for $4 million under the Federal Whistle-blowers Act after being given the option to resign or be fired. What he had done? He had "noted" that "earnings manipulations at Microsoft", which were "designed to meet expectations", were "illegal and constituted fraud."
While considering these rather alarming revelations, please do also spare a thought for the prisoners in the U.S. two million prisoners, up from 500,000 in 1980 and one million in 1990.
With under 5 percent of the world's population this most powerful country in the world now has one in four of the world's prisoners. Why?
Maybe the fact that the U.S. prison industry now turns over $35 billion a year has something to do with it and builds new prisons that cost $7 billion each, and, with over 500,000 employees, employs more people than any private enterprise apart from General Motors, and has a powerful lobby in Washington: maybe all this has something to do with it.
Maybe the fact that the money makers and servile politicians who really ought to be in prison and are not has something to do with it also!
No copyright restrictions. Please give the usual acknowledgements to author and source.
Boudewijn Wegerif is project leader of the Monetary Studies Programme at Vardingeby Folkhogskola (adult education College), S-150 21 Molnbo, Sweden e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . He lived in South Africa for a while and recently completed a walk from Sweden to South Africa to draw attention to the problems of the world.
This article below is written for relevance to the US but is an important insight into our own problems. We continue to lose jobs in SA at an alarming rate; many blame it on our labour laws and inflexible systems. The answers are much more complex than this and hopefully this list will begin to explore ways around the impasse. One of the main methods to create jobs locally is to promote local businesses; this is a crucial aspect of an economy and one that is touched on in the article below.
Have a great weekend
Many people concerned about the decline of their communities have begun to realize that government purchasing (often called procurement) has great potential for promoting environmental and social sustainability a potential that has barely been tapped........Now, however, some of these U.S. laws have been declared illegal by the World Trade Organization (WTO), headquartered in Switzerland, and many similar laws are now under attack by corporations.
...the WTO assault on government purchasing makes it possible for people to understand what "free trade" and the WTO are really about they are really about removing the last remnants of popular sovereignty and substituting, in their place, the elements of a corporate state.
Thus this brazen corporate campaign offers us all many opportunities to take the offensive, to re-assert control over our regional economies.
STEPS TOWARD A CORPORATE STATE
Governments in the U.S. federal, state, and local together spend more than a trillion dollars of taxpayers' money per year. That's a thousand billion dollars each year, representing roughly 1/6 of total U.S. Gross National Product. By any measure, it is a huge sum of money.
Many people concerned about the decline of their communities have begun to realize that government purchasing (often called procurement) has great potential for promoting environmental and social sustainability a potential that has barely been tapped.
By spending money strategically, governments can
In sum, government purchasing policy offers citizens an opportunity to make both governments and corporations accountable to taxpayers. Citizens can use government purchasing policy to guide their regional economy onto the path most likely to improve their quality of life. To put it another way, government purchasing offers citizens an opportunity to impose human values on their local and regional economy.
Now, however, some of these U.S. laws have been declared illegal by the World Trade Organization (WTO), headquartered in Switzerland, and many similar laws are now under attack by corporations. It is crystal clear that the combined corporate power of Japan, Europe and the U.S. is now aiming to make government purchasing policy off-limits to democratic decision-making.
Despite the anti-WTO protests in Seattle last fall, the WTO has not changed in any fundamental way. It is a powerful new system of world governance, designed and run by corporate lawyers who are not elected, who do not answer to the people they govern, and who make decisions behind closed doors. Their decisions are binding and can only be appealed once, to a three-member tribunal composed of other WTO bureaucrats, who are themselves usually corporate lawyers.
To a historian, it seems reasonable to conclude that the WTO and the "free trade" policies it was set up to enforce are the most direct threat to democracy and popular sovereignty since the rise of the corporate state under National Socialism in Germany in the late 1930s.
The corporate media in the U.S. describe the purpose of the WTO as "globalization" a term so vague that it is meaningless. The media never say so in plain language but the overarching goal of the WTO (and of "free trade" policies in general) is to diminish the power of governments, and thus to reduce governments' capacity to influence the behavior of transnational corporations. The WTO was set up as a forum in which transnational corporations can challenge and effectively repeal restrictions imposed upon them by nations (or by sub-governments within nations). In other words, rather than "globalization," the real purpose of the WTO is "global corporatization" -- increased corporate control over all the nations and economies of the world.
Created by international treaty in 1995, and now boasting 134 nations as members (nations that are not members can be iced out of international trade), the WTO has written 700 pages of rules which add up to an enforceable commercial code governing markets and trade world-wide a code enforceable not by nation-states but by the WTO itself. One of those rules is called the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA).
The GPA basically says that governments can set standards for the PERFORMANCE of purchased materials but cannot set standards based on METHODS OF PRODUCTION. Therefore, government purchasing policies cannot discriminate against materials produced by child labor or slave labor, for example. Likewise, requiring that items be manufactured from recycled materials would be prohibited under the GPA.
Thus the GPA provides one more way for corporations to strike down laws that curtail their freedoms. Corporations in the European Union, Canada, and Japan have been complaining for at least a decade that many U.S. laws are "illegal barriers to trade" meaning barriers to corporate freedom. If such laws can be struck down in the U.S., they can be struck down anywhere because the U.S. is the 900 pound gorilla within the WTO. To avoid enraging the gorilla, foreign corporations have been moving cautiously, looking for a strategic opportunity to strike. Now the GPA has provided an opportunity for the first step.
The immediate issue is the country called Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. It is widely acknowledged that the military dictatorship in Burma suppresses political opposition, tortures and murders its opponents, harnesses the populace into slave labor battalions (sometimes to work for U.S. corporations that have invested heavily in Burma, such as Unocal) and generally violates universally-recognized human rights.[6,7]
Borrowing a technique that was used by 23 U.S. states in the fight to end apartheid in South Africa, a dozen U.S. cities passed local ordinances in 1995-1996 preventing local government from doing business with companies doing business in Burma. (Other U.S. cities have similar laws aimed at punishing dictators in Nigeria, Tibet, Indonesia and Cuba.) In 1996, the state of Massachusetts passed a "Burma law," and this got the attention of corporations world-wide. (Although the GPA explicitly binds states and does not explicitly bind municipalities, there is widespread understanding that municipal laws will be challenged under WTO rules. For example, when Maryland tried to pass a law preventing state government from signing any contracts with the government of Nigeria or with any firms doing business in Nigeria, the Clinton administration opposed the legislation in testimony before the Maryland legislature, saying, "All state AND LOCAL sanctions are perceived to violate the rules, they can cause counterproductive disagreements.... [W]e would like to work with you to ensure that we don't expose ourselves to a potential WTO challenge.")
In 1998, Japan and the European Community (EC) each filed a formal complaint with the WTO, seeking to overturn the Massachusetts Burma law, basing their objection on Section XIII.4(b) of the GPA. However, a group of 550 U.S. corporations calling themselves the National Foreign Trade Council beat them to the punch and sued Massachusetts in a state court, arguing that the Constitution reserves foreign policy decisions to the Executive Branch of the federal government. Predictably the Clinton/Gore administration sided with the corporations against Massachusetts. The state court and a federal appeals court both ruled against Massachusetts.
"If such a ruling had come out a decade ago," said Massachusetts representative Byron Rushing, who sponsored the Massachusetts law, "Nelson Mandela might still be in prison today." Now the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the issue. However, the European Community and Japan have announced that, if the Supreme Court rules incorrectly, they will ask the WTO to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court. The corporate rulers of Europe, Japan and the U.S. agree on this: the public has no right to impose moral standards on economic activity. The economy is not subject to democratic control. The Government Purchasing Agreement is where they are making their stand, campaigning to diminish the vestiges of democracy wherever they remain.
The good news is that this corporate assault on democracy offers unprecedented opportunities for getting the public involved. Nearly everyone can see that taxpayers have a basic right to spend their money as they see fit. With a modest amount of information, people can see the good that can come from well-crafted government purchasing policies. Such policies allow people to improve their local and regional economies, while rebuilding peoples' confidence that government can serve their needs. Lastly, the WTO assault on government purchasing makes it possible for people to understand what "free trade" and the WTO are really about they are really about removing the last remnants of popular sovereignty and substituting, in their place, the elements of a corporate state.
Thus this brazen corporate campaign offers us all many opportunities to take the offensive, to re-assert control over our regional economies.
For legal technical assistance on government purchasing policies, contact Robert Sturmberg, Harrison Institute for Public Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C.; phone 202-662-9600. See http://www.law.georgetown.edu/clinics/hi For further information about best
practices in government purchasing policies, get in touch with Sustainable America, 42 Broadway, Suite 1740, New York, NY 10004-1617; phone: 212-269-9550; see http://www.sustainableamerica.org
Here is an urgent issue arising in how science is managed around the world. Two groups are being proposed as the "final arbitrars" of scientific truth or exactitude. The first is mentioned below and the second is being put into place in the UK under the auspices of the Royal Academy of Science. Both of these institutions do not take happily to dissent. If one witnesses the gulf in the debate between different points of view on AIDS, GE, global warming, the ozone hole, nuclear power etc, it is obvious that there is massive disagreement on who is correct and who is not.
The crux of the matter is that the debate has moved away from the scientific foundation upon which it should be built and has become a discourse driven by rhetoric, polemic, emotion and plain bad science. All too often the rhetoric comes from the side of "established" science. In last weeks Mail and Guardian (a leading South African weekly newspaper) an attack on President Mbekis scepticism around the mainstream AIDS doctrine claimed that non-experts are unable to make anything more than "ludicrous comment". This is absolute nonsense. Do you have to be a chicken to recognise an egg?
We still have no answers about where we are going to store our nuclear waste, 50 years into the life of an industry driven by dubious principles. The real issues around the AIDS debate are only being explored here in South Africa, to the dismay of mainstream science. Issues raised around GE crops have not been adequately debated, explained or dealt with by mainstream science. Alternative energy, integrated farming systems, and many scientific advances that threaten the hegemony of the economic mainstream are sidelined. This is not a conspiracy theory, it is a reality.
We stand in great danger of living in a scientific dictatorship if the trend to open scientific debate is further silenced by these self appointed scientific bodies. I urge you all to circulate this and other posts that I will be sending out to the widest possible readership.
All the best
By M.W.Ho@open.ac.uk 05/11/2000
The following letter, which gives a good insight into how corporate science works in the global arena behind closed doors, has been rejected from Science magazine despite three requests for reconsideration from Dr. Samuel Epstein. The issue at stake is democracy and the social control of science and technology, which is all the more urgent, as technologies become more powerful and uncontrollable.
This is not the first time that magazines such as Science, Nature and New Scientist have refused to give voice to scientists dissenting from the corporate view, to which they give undue and apparently unlimited access. Nature Biotechnology even published a long article attempting to discredit a scientific review - on the potential hazards of the cauliflower mosaic viral promoter (now published) - in the worst style of gutter journalism, and only gave a very grudging right to reply after a delay of three to four months. I have long cancelled my personal subscriptions to these magazines, and I suggest others might consider doing the same.
We can have no confidence in the International Academy Council being proposed, unless and until the composition of this Council has gone through the necessary open democratic process. Scientists like us have tried our best to engage the scientific community as well as the general public in open debate. Some, like Dr. Arpad Puztai had lost his job and bore the brunt of vilification from the scientific establishment.
We have all had our lives and work ruined, not the least of which by being forced to read boring scientific papers and documents that we would never have volunteered to read if we didn't think it was so important for the public to be informed of what corporate science has in store for us. This is what democracy is all about. We have repeatedly invited and challenged those real scientists who disagree with us to debate the science in public and in terms that the public can understand. They have turned us down again and again.
"At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, the President of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Bruce Alberts, and an unheralded group of a dozen other presidents of national science academies, quietly gathered behind the scenes to propose the creation of an International Academy Council (IAC) as a global science advisory board. The object of the IAC, expected to be formalized this month, is to provide "impartial scientific advice" to governments and international organizations on issues such as genetic engineering, threatened ecosystems, and biodiversity. While most would agree with Alberts "that the world needs much more advice from scientists," there are serious questions on reliance of advice from an NAS-modeled IAC.
Through its huge think tank, the National Research Council (NRC) chaired by Alberts with a full-time staff of 1000 and a $200 million budget, the NAS conducts studies and prepares about 200 reports annually, largely under contract to federal agencies. However, in flagrant violation of governmental openness rules (the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act) which Alberts still vehemently opposes, NRC committees and panels meet secretly in closed sessions, fail to disclose their minutes and conflict of interest statements, and fail to require that their membership reflects balanced representation of divergent interests and viewpoints.
Illustrative is the conduct of the NRC committee on "Comparative Toxicity of Naturally Occurring Carcinogens" which issued the 1996 report on "Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet." This report trivialized concerns on cancer risks to infants and children from food contaminated with carcinogenic pesticides, as these were alleged to "occur at levels far too low to have any adverse effects on health." Acting on behalf of an ad hoc coalition of about 100 leading independent experts in public health and cancer prevention, and representatives of a wide range of labor and citizen groups, one of us (SSE) warned Alberts that this committee was grossly unbalanced and "disproportionately weighted with industry consultants;" it should further be noted that no paediatrician was invited to serve.
Alberts responded admitting "that some of the committee members have performed some consulting for industry," but dismissed these concerns as "the same members have also advised or consulted for regulatory agencies." Other concerns were expressed that the composition of the NRC Committee could "be used to discredit or undermine" the previous NRC report on "Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children," which explicitly warned of cancer risks to children.
A more blatant conflict of interest is evidenced by the composition of the March, 1999 NRC biotechnology panel with its disproportionate representation of experts directly linked to the industry. This conflict was compounded by the subsequent discovery of a revolving-door relationship between the industry and NRC. Unknown to the panel, its executive director Dr. Michael Phillips was secretly negotiating for a senior position in the Biotechnology Industry Organization. He joined the industry some 3 months later.
As federal support is beginning to shrink, the NAS plans to increase funding from non-federal sources, which currently account for some 15% of its budget. The NAS is also planning to extend its influence to major national policy concerns. However, characteristic of his penchant for secrecy, Alberts has refused to release a pending report recommending reorganization of NAS policies and procedures.
Evaluation of global concerns, particularly on public health and environmental integrity, should not be entrusted to a non-transparent and unaccountable cabal of self-appointed experts, such as the proposed IAC, whose views may reflect special interests rather than the public. Instead, highly qualified independent scientists acceptable to or working with non-governmental organizations (NGO's) should play a major role in any international science advisory body. These include the recently proposed World Academy of Science in Society, The Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology (PSRAST), and the group of some 300 "World Scientists."
Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago and Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition
2121 W. Taylor St., Chicago, IL 60612, (312) 996-2297
Edward Goldsmith, M.A.
46 The Vineyard, Richmond, Surrey, U.K., (011) 44-181-332-6963
Mae Wan Ho, Ph.D.
Department of Biology, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, U.K., (011) 44-1908-653-113
"When a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa, it can cause a hurricane in New York."
The Washington Consensus ..... is disseminating a political monoculture , a single world view. It is , quite simply , the globalization of an ideology, a world economic order designed by and for capital exporters.
The globalization of this ideology required two conditions:
-Clarke & Barlow, 1997
By Clarke, Tony and Maude Barlow. 1997. The MAI and the Threat to Canadian Sovereignty. Toronto: Stoddart.
[Excerpted from Ch 1 "The Rise and Fall of Democratic Rights" p. 11 ]
.. Parallel to the United Nation's post -war process to develop an international regime of citizen and nation-state democracy , another very different , process was being launched. Economic globalization was beginning on a number of fronts, and it offered a very different vision for the future of humanity. The US has long advocated an open global investment regime in order to advance the interests of its corporations. After WWII , that country found itself with a highly industrialized infrastructure producing more goods than it needed for its own consumers. At the same time, the U.S. assumed the role of global defender of the "free market" and tool on the task of defeating communism and socialism everywhere it might be found.
The United States set about the rebuilding of Europe with its massive Marshall Plan a military and economic project built on a market model. It also brought together the world's financial elite in a small New Hampshire town of Bretton woods in 1944 to set the post -war conditions for global economic recovery, and established the Bretton Woods institutions : The World Bank, to assist developing countries with long -term development programs and the International Monetary Fund [IMF] to promote currency stability and liberalization of international trade. While the development and alleviation of poverty were the stated goals of the Bretton Woods Institutions the underlying mandate became the expansion and integration of a global financial system and market mirrored on the US economic model.
These initiatives together created massive markets for American goods and profits for U.S. business unrivalled in the history of the world..
In 1947 Washington also scuttled moves to establish an international trade regime that would have obliged member countries to incorporate the provisions of the UN Declaration, setting standards for full employment, working conditions, and social security. . .It chose instead to create, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade [GATT] , a body that would concentrate on opening up world markets for U.S. goods by reducing tariff barriers on goods and services.
Until the 1980's the United States attempted to establish foreign investment rules inside the United nations itself. However, the UN proved too democratic in its structure and too concerned with democracy as a principle to provide the protection US corporations were seeking.
IN 1974, under the influence of the developing nations, the UN enacted a charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States , which stated that member nations have the "inalienable right" to "regulate and exercise authority over foreign investment." It granted nations the right to "regulate and supervise the activities of transnational Corporations" in the national interest, including performance requirements, and declared that "transnational corporations shall not intervene in the international affairs of the host State." As well, the code allowed member states to "nationalize , expropriate, or transfer ownership of foreign property."
The UN also set up the United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations in the late 1970's , and drafted a Code of Conduct to regulate corporate behaviour.. The United States looked to greener pastures.
The Washington Consensus Over the past few decades, the discrediting and eventual collapse of communism provided fertile ground for an emerging global regime based on an ideology that places the needs of capital and corporations above the needs and rights of nation-states and their citizens. This ideology is fundamentally opposed to the notion of citizen and nation-state democracy contained in the UN Declaration a notion the powerful Trilateral Commission called - "an excess of democracy" in a 1970's paper. (the Trilateral Commission is a global forum of CEO's and leaders of the major industrialized countries formed in the early 1970's to dismantle the Keynesian model of the nation- state and to reform and restructure the global economy.
Originally formed by David Rockefeller, chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank and Zbigniew Brzezinski, who would become national security advisor to the US president Jimmy Carter, the commission grew to include some 32r top leaders, CEO's , government bureaucrats, academics, and members of the media) The philosophy of the Trilateralists has come to be known as the "Washington Consensus" a model of development based on the belief that liberal market economics is the one and only economic hope for all countries , including poor countries.
According to this doctrine, governments have to be prepared to give up their controls on foreign investment and prepare their citizens for competitive labour conditions and privatized social security. Foreign investment , unimpeded by conditions and built on cheap labour , will eventually bring prosperity . With time, labour and human rights issues will get addressed, but building a free market economy without restrictions must be the first priority. The Washington Consensus has also been called "democracy delayed" because the democratic citizen's rights that form the heart of the UN Declaration are largely absent from this model. Most important, it seeks the political stability so crucial to global investment and their nation-state patrons.
The Washington Consensus , economist Paul Krugman explains , now defines "not only the US government, but all those institutions and networks of opinion leaders centered in the world's de facto capital-think tanks, politically sophisticated investment bankers, and worldly finance ministers , all those who meet each other in Washington and collectively define the conventional wisdom of the moment. " This consensus is disseminating a political monoculture , a single world view. It is , quite simply , the globalization of an ideology, a world economic order designed by and for capital exporters.
The globalization of this ideology required two conditions:
As technology advanced , the first condition was met . Big business went global. Two decades ago , the UN reported there were 7,000 transnational corporations in the world; today there are more than 40,000. The top 200 , reports the Washington based Institute for Policy studies , are so large and powerful that together their annual sales are bigger than the combined economies of 182 of the 191 countries in the world. And equal to almost twice the total income of the lowest -earning four fifths of humanity. These corporations and the political coalitions they have formed have placed relentless pressure on nation-states to abandon economic an cultural protectionism and adopt rules necessary for their long term prosperity.
The second condition, political cooperation to set rules. found its first adherents in the industrialized nation that housed the transnational corporations. The OECD is made of the 29 most powerful economies on earth . In the 1970's the member states were all dominated by large capital exporters and consequently shared US hostility to the continued insistence of the developing world to set conditions upon foreign investment.
The seeds of the MAI .were planted in the OECD in the 1960's when member countries adopted two binding codes on investment liberalization: the Code of Liberalization of Capital Movements and the Code of Liberalization of Current Invisible Operation (Canada was the sole hold-out member on these codes and remained so until the early 1980's ) A third , non-binding code on "national investment" the requirement to grant the corporations of another country the same rights as domestic producers as adopted in 1973. The stated desire was to "put a fence around the use of governmental policies that distort patterns of investment and trade. "
While these codes set the stage for later developments, they were far narrower than the US wanted. Further , the absence of a supranational legal institution to enforce them meant that adherence was spotty, relying on peer pressure to encourage compliance . Perhaps the biggest drawback to the OECD was that the codes didn't apply to non-members - the majority of the world's nations, among whom were numbered the biggest transgressors of free trade and investment liberalization. In fact, protectionist sentiment was growing in the third World. The US started to look to the GATT to develop a more comprehensive set of rules that would bind many more countries.
Meanwhile, developing countries were brought to heel by the Bretton Woods institutions, which used the countries' debt obligations to get them to weaken their tools of national sovereignty and to adopt a free market economic model. Massive loans at low interest rates were negotiated with commercial banks; when the interest rates skyrocketed , the World Bank and the IMG demanded deep structural adjustments to the internal policies of these nations in return for debt renegotiation.
Debt-laden countries such as Mexico and Zambia had to dramatically reduce the role and scope of government , slashing funding for public education, pensions, and health care; deregulating transportation, telecommuinications, and utilities ; lowering minimum wage and working standards; replacing traditional agricultural systems with corporate agribusiness to grow cash crops for export; and selling off state assets. Most important barriers to foreign investment had to be removed. Domestic industry and farming were opened up to foreign competition. Barriers to unrestricted trade had to start coming down. Trasnational investment and corporations were given preferential treatment over local business.
In spite of these sacrifices , third World debt grew by 400 percent between 1980 and 1995. Up until 1983 , says CUSO. The amount of capital that was transferred South, either as investments or in foreign aid, was greater than the amount of capital that was being sent North. Since then , the direction has reversed; Southern countries now send more money to the North as a condition of repaying their loans than they receive back. As a result, the national sovereignty of more than eighty countries that have undergone structural adjustment has been seriously eroded, as has their ability to maintain their social commitment to the UN Declaration. In almost every case, these nations have emerged poorer than they were before the process began. The UN says these countries have paid their debts with the health and lives of their children.
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[Bruce Silverglade of the Center for Science in the Public Interest managed to get himself invited to a day-long high-level seminar on "After Seattle: Restoring Momentum to the WTO." Speakers included Clayton Yeutter (former Secretary of Agriculture), Robert Litan (former Associate Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget), Lawrence Eagleburger (former Secretary of State), and Luiz Felipe Lamreia, the foreign Minster of Brazil.
His fly-on-the-wall report is worth quoting at some length]: I was disappointed that only one representative like myself from a non-profit organization concerned about the impact of the WTO on food safety regulation was invited. But I was pleased that the door had been opened and I looked forward to [it]. . . . As it turned out, I got a lot more than I bargained for. The seminar turned out to be a strategy session on how to defeat those opposed to the current WTO system. Apparently, no one knew who I was (perhaps my graying temples and dark suit helped me blend in with the overwhelming older male group of attendees) and I did not speak up until the end of the meeting.
The meeting was kicked off by a gentleman named Lord Patterson who was Margaret Thatcher's Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. He began by stating that our number one job is to restore confidence in the WTO before embarking on any new rounds of trade negotiations. So far, so good, I thought. But he then proclaimed that non-profit groups have no right to criticize the WTO as undemocratic because the groups themselves do not represent the general public. (I wondered which groups he was talking about because organizations that are gravely concerned about the impact of the WTO on environmental and consumer protection, like the Sierra Club and Public Citizen, have hundreds of thousands of members).
He then stated That we must never have another WTO meeting on US soil because it was too easy for advocacy groups to organize here and security could not be assured . . . He added that President Clinton's speech during the WTO meeting in Seattle, in which the president acknowledged the protesters' concerns, Was "disgraceful" and stated that it was also disgraceful that delegates to the WTO meeting in Seattle had to survive on sandwiches and couldn't get a decent meal during three days of social protest.
The Lord finished his speech by recalling better times having tea with Maggie, and stating that the staff of the WTO Secretariat ~ should not be balanced with people from developing countries just because of the color of their skin. After a few words with the chairman of the meeting, Lord Patterson added "Oh, I hope I have not offended anyone." . . . The largely American audience of trade officials and policy wonks took the Lord's pronouncements seriously. The first comment by an American, picked up on the criticisms and asked OEHow can we de-legitimize the NGOs?'
The questioner claimed that these groups are usually supported by just a few charitable foundations and if the foundations could be convinced to cut off funding, the groups would be forced to cease operations. Mr. Litan, the former White House budget official, had another approach. He [asked] can't we give the NGOs other sandboxes to play in and have them take their concerns to groups like the International Labor Organization (a toothless United Nations sponsored-group).
The representative from the US Trade Representative's office said nothing. . . . Under the banner of rebuilding public confidence in the WTO, [former Agriculture Secretary] Yeutter concurred with his British colleague's suggestion that the next WTO meeting be held in some place other than the US where security can be assured. He further suggested that the WTO give the public little advance notice of where the meeting would be held to keep the protesters off balance.
He said that the protesters' demands for greater transparency in WTO proceedings was a misnomer because the protesters didn't really want to participate in WTO proceedings 9all they wanted was to get TV coverage and raise money for their organizations. . . . The day ended with the usual Washington reception . . . During desert, the foreign minister of Brazil lamented that if the next WTO meeting had to be held in an out of the way place, he preferred that it be held on a cruise ship instead of in the middle of the desert.
He then gave an impassioned speech in which he opposed writing core labor standards into the WTO agreement and defended child labor by describing how in one region of Brazil, more than 5,000 children "help their families earn a little extra money" by hauling bags of coal from a dump yard to a steel mill. He stressed, however, that the children do not work directly in the steel mill. He was greeted by a hearty round of applause.
"All policymakers must be vigilant to the possibility of research data being manipulated by corporate bodies and of scientific colleagues being seduced by the material charms of industry. Trust is no defence against an aggressively deceptive corporate sector,"
The Lancet, April 2000